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Handicapping the Cleveland Browns' Chances in the AFC Playoff Race

Yahoo Contributor Network
COMMENTARY | Hopefully, fans of the Cleveland Browns are prepared for what is likely going to be a nerve-wracking final seven weeks of the 2013 regular season.

When Cleveland takes the field again on November 17 against the Cincinnati Bengals, the Browns will be no more than one game back in a crowded race for the second wild-card spot in the AFC. The 5-4 New York Jets currently lead the wild-card race, followed by a trio of 4-4 teams -- the Miami Dolphins, San Diego Chargers, and Tennessee Titans.

This is a look at the Browns' playoff chances, as well as the other four teams in the thick of the wild-card race:


Assuming quarterback Jason Campbell can stay healthy, the Browns should be in the playoff hunt until the very end.

Cleveland's schedule is very manageable over the final seven weeks, with two games against the woeful Pittsburgh Steelers, as well as a home game against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 13. A win in Week 15 at home over the Chicago Bears would boost Cleveland's playoff chances immensely, and, at this point, the Browns' trip to New York to face the Jets in Week 16 is a must-win game if Cleveland hopes to play postseason football this season.


Even though the Chargers showed flashes of brilliance during the first half of 2013, a murderous schedule in November and December could be what knocks San Diego out of the wild-card race. The Chargers have yet to play the Denver Broncos or Kansas City Chiefs in 2013, so four games against a pair of teams that are a combined 16-1 this season can't be anything Chargers fans are looking forward to.

The fact of the matter is that San Diego is going to have to pull off two or three upsets if they hope to make the postseason, something that seems unlikely at this point.


Currently mired in a hazing controversy that has the Dolphins in the national media for all the wrong reasons, it's hard to gauge where this streaky Miami team will end up.

Miami's schedule is not overly difficult over the final eight weeks, and with two games against the Jets remaining, the Dolphins realistically could come out on the top of the AFC wild-card heap. It doesn't help Cleveland's cause that the Browns lost to the Dolphins in Week 1, so Miami owns the tie-breaker. The key for Miami could be how well they emerge from all of the scrutiny they are facing at the moment.


As the NFL's poster children for inconsistency so far in 2013, the Jets have been all over the place this season. The last four weeks alone have seen New York defeat two quality teams in the form of the New England Patriots and New Orleans Saints, yet the Jets lost to the Steelers in Week 6, and then got absolutely destroyed by the Bengals in Week 8.

The good news for New York is that their remaining seven games won't provide many roadblocks on their way to a possible playoff berth, but with the 2013 Jets, expect the unexpected. It will be interesting to see if New York will be able to take care of business down the stretch.


Tennessee very well could be the team that snags the wild-card spot when all is said and done. The Titans already own victories over New York and San Diego, and three of their four losses have been to teams that are having superb seasons in 2013 -- the Chiefs, San Francisco 49ers, and Seattle Seahawks.

The Titans' final eight games aren't exactly fearsome, either. Two games against the Indianapolis Colts and a trip to Denver in Week 14 are the only remaining tests for a team that still has two games left against the dreadful Jaguars.

The Titans are a battle-tested team, so it's hard to imagine them losing games to lousy teams down the stretch. At this point, Tennessee has to be considered the biggest threat to the Browns' playoff hopes.

Shaun Heidrick is a Yahoo Contributor who has followed the Cleveland Browns for over 25 years.

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